Posts tagged Titan Books
The bad news is that the sci-fi show Fringe is over. However the good news is that it recently received a second life through Titan Books. So far, the publisher has released two stories set in the program’s universe, with a third on the way for 2014. Titan’s novels are written by Christa Faust and provide backstory for your favorite characters: Olivia (Anna Torv), Walter (John Noble), and Peter (Joshua Jackson). Each book features a single character on the cover and concentrates on him or her, like Faust’s tale Fringe – The Burning Man, which takes place during FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham’s childhood.
Starting with an incident during Olivia’s early years as a test subject for the drug Cortexiphan, The Burning Man quickly introduces us to the substance’s mysterious supernatural effects on her. Then we move forward a bit, to the events that cause her to shoot her abusive stepfather, and to her ensuing encounter with a man named Tony, who forms a bizarre physiological attachment to her. Driven to madness by this condition, Tony is locked away in an institution, although eventually he’s released and sets out on a quest to kill Olivia. By this point, she is at a New England boarding school with her younger sister Rachel, who Olivia realizes she must also protect from this psychopath. Can the lone teenager save her sister and herself though?
What’s great about Christa Faust’s Fringe – The Burning Man, is that it provides depth to Olivia’s past that the show often could only accomplish entirely through exposition. It’s intriguing to uncover more details behind her traumatic relationship with her stepfather and to discover how she became a career-driven crime fighter. You receive deeper insight into her troubled relationships with men and the reason for her emotional reluctance with romantic entanglements as well.
Faust’s pacing is perfect, so her story moves quickly, similar to an episode of Fringe. Although the narrative focuses on Olivia, Faust shifts perspectives effectively between various characters to give you a full picture of the action. Like Dunham herself, Faust’s prose is efficient and descriptive, with no nonsense. Occasionally she veers into a pop culture reference or silly analogy, although her writing is otherwise straightforward. The only place where Faust’s voice feels off is in the book’s epilogue. With the adult Olivia, her words take on a hyper, stream of consciousness style that doesn’t match the earlier chapters. However given the book’s already quick rhythm, if the whole thing was constructed with this frantic voice, it could have been even more compelling yarn.
If you’re looking to get your Fringe fix, Faust’s novels from Titan are a good way to do it, but be sure to savor the first two outings, because the next one doesn’t arrive until March.
Have you ever reached the end of a book and felt completely confused about what happened? Maybe you had a hard time with one of those “classics” filled with symbolism that you were forced to read in school. I’m not talking about tomes like that though. Have you ever been totally befuddled by a modern, run-of-the-mill novel? If you still answered “No,” you’re lucky, because I can’t say the same after finishing Danie Ware’s sci-fi/fantasy tale “Ecko Rising.”
I can normally handle science fiction literature, but I’m not used to fantasy. At first I thought my inexperience with the genre is why I didn’t get “Ecko Rising.” However as a fairly intelligent person capable of processing complex concepts daily, that rationale didn’t make sense to me. I also wondered if I struggled because Ware’s novel is the first in an intended series. Perhaps I needed to read another one to grasp her yarn? That couldn’t be it either, since I’ve gone through other multi-volume story arcs and still understood the first book. After much thought, I deduced that the reason why I couldn’t comprehend “Ecko Rising” is that it’s just not well-written.
Ware herself is not a bad writer. I know that seems contradictory for me to say, so I’ll explain. She proves her talent with a creative premise, vivid prose, and a fast-paced narrative. Although she doesn’t explain many of the specialized terms that exist in her unique worlds, which is why “Ecko Rising” is confusing as heck. Characters in her story speak in bizarre dialects with weird slang and jargon that doesn’t get defined. Ware starts using these terms expecting you to somehow pick up their meaning based on their context, something that isn’t easy. A map at the front of the book gives you some frame of reference on places at least, but it doesn’t help that much.
Ware’s story focuses on Ecko, some sort of bionically enhanced assassin living in London. His gadgets allow him super strength, speed, and stealth that make him a force to be reckoned with. While on a mission, he blacks out and wakes up in a mysterious world with no technology, strange characters, monsters, and magic. As dark forces descend upon this peaceful land, it seems like Ecko is the only one who can save it. Is he dreaming? Is this place a virtual reality test for Ecko set up for someone’s amusement? Or scariest of all, is it real?
A testimonial on the back cover for “Ecko Rising” describes it as “The Matrix meets Game of Thrones…” which I think is a fairly accurate comparison. There’s this constant mind game going on with Ecko and the reader about whether his environment is a computer simulation just like “The Matrix.” And the fantasy elements combined with Ware’s multiple simultaneous storylines and intense sex scenes feel very much like “Game of Thrones.” Most of the erotic portions are titillating, however I could have done without the book’s messed up rape passage.
Ware’s locations that she constructs for “Ecko Rising” are fascinating places to inhabit, brought to life by descriptive language that is quite colorful, even if it has a tendency to be a bit repetitive. She always keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, intertwining several perspectives at the same time, which makes it easy to get through this 500-plus page novel. Unfortunately if you’re like me, you’ll reach the end, wondering what it was all about and why you stuck around.
Don’t let the upbeat title of Stephen King’s “Joyland” fool you; his novel is no lighthearted tale of youthful exuberance. Although the book shares its name with a fictional amusement park where happy memories are made for children, the titular grounds in this paranormal, coming-of-age crime thriller have a much more tragic history for adults. Would you expect anything less from The Master of Horror?
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Ever since I devoured Dana Fredsti’s thrilling zombie novel Plague Town last April, I’ve been anxiously awaiting its sequel Plague Nation. Thankfully I was rewarded with it earlier this month, and got a chance to start it during my morning commute. I found myself on the edge of my seat, literally so absorbed, that I didn’t even realize I had gotten on the wrong train. Now that’s gripping zombie literature!
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Anytime something claims to be the “complete” guide to a subject, I’m immediately skeptical of its “completeness.” Asserting that your piece is the be all and end all resource about a topic is pretty bold, carrying with it an air of arrogance. However that self-assuredness is completely justified in the case of Nicholas Pegg’s 700 plus page tome, The Complete David Bowie, which was recently re-released in an updated and expanded edition by Titan Books.
Pegg’s lengthy introduction celebrates the chameleonic David Bowie for his ability to change appearance, persona, and music to suit changing artistic interests. He comes off as very defensive of Bowie, responding to criticisms that the man lacks attention span and his own unique style. Although Pegg argues quite deftly that Bowie self-identifies more as a performer than a musician, using new types of sound and characters to explore themes of space travel, faith, mental health, and isolation that he’s been grappling with throughout his career. By placing Bowie in this light, Pegg opens a fascinating door to helping you better understand the complicated facets of this enigmatic artist. It’s also the perfect setup for what follows in Pegg’s guide.
Throughout The Complete David Bowie, Pegg uses a shorthand when discussing Bowie’s works, which thankfully he lays out in the beginning of the piece under a section called “How to Use This Book.” Pegg’s volume is as complete as you can possibly get when it comes to Bowie, discussing songs from A-Z, albums, live performances, BBC radio sessions, videos, and Bowie’s work as an actor. There’s a fantastic section called “Dateline” as well, which is literally a 54 page timeline of Bowie’s career covering all aspects of his artistic pursuits.
The two column text format for each page means that this work is jam-packed with juicy details. Everything in Pegg’s book is meticulously researched and written, containing fascinating insight and behind-the-scenes information quelled from multiple sources, including but not limited to interviews with Bowie and his collaborators. For instance in his section on songs, Pegg includes details about different versions of songs, circumstances surrounding their recording, if bootleg copies have surfaced, and even notable covers by other musicians. If that’s not thorough, I don’t know what is.
If you’re a casual Bowie appreciator, beware; you might not have the fortitude to digest a volume of this breadth. However, if you’re a hardcore Bowie fan looking for the Encyclopedia Bowieca, you won’t be disappointed with The Complete David Bowie. The subject matter and its precise presentation will be enough for you to want to read this book cover to cover.
The Complete David Bowie is available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
Thankfully I wasn’t a total steampunk noob when I sat down to read James P. Blaylock’s latest novel The Aylesford Skull. I was luckily introduced to steampunk subculture few years ago, by a memorable newspaper article that profiled avid Massachusetts people in the scene. Since then I’ve been fascinated by the movement’s fusion of science fiction and Victorian era clothing, themes, and technology. So when Titan Books offered me a chance to review a steampunk book, I was excited by the concept of an adventure in this imaginative world. Naturally, I also was a bit wary since this would be my first foray into steampunk literature, but I figured if Blaylock is referred to as a “steampunk legend” then I was probably in safe hands. And I’m happy to report that I was.
Probably the most surprising thing about The Aylesford Skull is how subtly it fits into the steampunk genre. Initially I expected overt reminders of this book’s place in the subgenre with all kinds of wacky futuristic contraptions, terminology, and styles of dress. I quickly discovered that the Victorian England inhabited by Blaylock’s protagonist Langdon St. Ives, is not very ostentatious. There are occasional references to goggles, airships, and other advanced technology, but nothing that screams steampunk. In fact, Blaylock’s setting is remarkably similar to the London of another Victorian era hero: Sherlock Holmes.
As a character, Langdon St. Ives is essentially the steampunk Holmes. Both are brave, intelligent men who consistently find themselves wrapped up on complex mysteries fraught with danger and intrigue. Like Holmes, St. Ives has a faithful companion who is almost always by his side, and he has friends from all walks of life that assist him when needed. Hasbro is St. Ives’s equivalent to Watson, and his young friend Finn Conrad seems like he could easily fit in among the young scamps Holmes occasionally employs for assistance. St. Ives even has a nemesis Dr. Narbondo, who’s a dastardly mastermind akin to Professor Moriarty. Their resemblance is clearly intentional since Blaylock features a character who aids St. Ives named Arthur Doyle as a nod to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Scottish author who created Sherlock Holmes.
Despite their common traits, St. Ives is not simply a Holmes carbon copy. He’s a professor and adventurer as opposed to a detective. St. Ives is also a fuller, more sympathetic character because he’s a family man with a wife and children that he cares about. He’s not a manic detective obsessed with his work who goes looking for trouble; St. Ives becomes incidentally embroiled in it. This admirable man is motivated by genuine concern for his loved ones, and he’ll do anything to protect them.
Blaylock’s tale involves supernatural elements, and like Holmes, St. Ives is a man of logic, so he’s reluctant to accept the ideas at first. Unlike one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s yarns however, The Aylesford Skull doesn’t have a rational justification for its fantastic portions. Unfortunately that’s one of the book’s few shortcomings, its murky, slightly confusing exposition on how the titular Aylesford Skull actually works.
Aside from this thin MacGuffin, The Aylesford Skull is a brisk, fun romp that you’ll devour quickly. Throughout the book Blaylock deftly weaves multiple characters and shifting points of view together in a way that effectively maintains momentum and drives the story forward. When the personalities do cross paths, their dialogue has a dry British humor that makes for amusing banter. And while there’s no grand explanation of the mystery from the protagonist in the style of Holmes, Blaylock’s conclusion is action-packed enough to make up for it. If this is what steampunk literature is supposed to be like, count me in for more outings.
The Aylesford Skull is available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
I’m not the target audience for Mark Salisbury’s book Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion. That’s because I never saw the 1970s soap that inspired Tim Burton’s film “Dark Shadows,” and I didn’t find the movie particularly entertaining. I thought it was better than Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” but not one of his all-time best. However, I am a sucker for coffee table books, especially ones about movies, which is why I decided to check out Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion. I knew it would be a quick, easy read with lots of big glossy photos and fascinating behind the scenes stories. And it didn’t disappoint!
Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion features a foreword by Johnny Depp, the movie’s lead actor and frequent Burton collaborator, as well as an introduction by Burton himself. Neither of these statements are very long, although Depp’s foreword is especially entertaining. Even if it was ghostwritten, the section captures his unique voice perfectly with statements like “The character of Barnabas Collins possessed a sense of elegance that bewitched me.”
Following these opening statements is a section on the history of how the project came to be, which annoyingly repeats some of the same sentiments expressed in Depp and Burton’s intros. After that, the book delves into original material again, taking a logical approach to organizing itself: Chapter 1 (Cast), Chapter 2 (The Sets), Chapter 3 (Costume, Hair & Makeup, Prosthetics), Chapter 4 (Cinematography, Stunts, Special Effects), and Chapter 5 (Visual Effects, Editing, Scoring).
Each chapter contains a pleasing mixture of behind the scenes photos, concept art, and anecdotes from the cast and crew. Frustratingly though, captions are not placed next to images. Instead there is a single page in the back which has them, forcing you to flip back if you want to know who or what is featured on a specific page. The most hilarious interview snippets come from Depp of course, who is the only person in the book who requires censoring. He drops an f-bomb, which is politely altered so as not to offend readers.
My favorite discoveries mainly involved how the filmmakers created the costumes, sets, and effects for this supernatural flick. I loved hearing about how movie magic was used to create this quirky world. Although it was also intriguing to learn that Michelle Pfeiffer who plays the Collins family matriarch, was a huge fan of the “Dark Shadows” television show and practically begged Burton for a role in the movie.
Perhaps the most bittersweet part of Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion, is its afterword by the late producer Richard D. Zanuck, to whom the book is dedicated. Zanuck had an extremely long and successful career working on many iconic films, so it’s surprising to hear him describe this cast and his crew as one of his all-time favorites. I wonder how much of his statements were derived from truth, and whether he was putting on a kind face for publicity’s sake. Unfortunately we’ll never get the chance to ask him.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the film “Dark Shadows” I still dug Mark Salisbury’s book, so if you’re a huge fan of Burton, Depp, the movie, or the television show, you’ll probably have just as much fun with this book.
Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion is available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
Let’s not pull any punches. Silhouettes are boring, stuffy pieces of artwork. The only places you can usually find them are in the homes of older affluent folks, or those trying desperately to project the air of wealth. However, once you discover Silhouettes from Popular Culture by artist Olly Moss, you’ll never look at the medium the same way again. That’s because Moss’s debut hardcover is a game-changer for this type of art.
Instead of featuring nameless subjects or dry historical figures, Moss mines our favorite movies, television shows, and yes even video games from the last 50 years for silhouette fodder. To reveal who he gives the treatment to would spoil the thrill of seeing it yourself, although pop culture gurus should be delighted by the variety offered up in this book. Moss doesn’t hesitate to get obscure with his references, something that only adds to the hilarity of his concept.
What makes this hardcover unique isn’t just that Moss borrows characters from popular culture; it’s the way he playfully arranges them by using both pages to tell a story. Sometimes the silhouettes on opposing pages are characters from the same piece, other times they are different ones played by a single actor, and in select instances they can be different versions of the same character portrayed by different actors. These characters can be interacting directly or indirectly based on their placement. At certain points they’re facing one another, in others they’re facing away, and in a few spots, they are lined up going the same direction.
When necessary to create context, Moss adds his own clever design flourishes to the silhouettes like small splashes of color. There’s plenty of range to entertain you and a very sleek old-time look and feel to the book. The cover is made of a blue textured fabric, with gold etching for the title, and a raised silhouette that feels like it was hand-cut and pasted on.
Silhouettes from Popular Culture is brimming with cool pictures to keep you engaged, but it’s much more than just a typical coffee table book. Moss combines old-fashioned aesthetics with a postmodern sense of humor to create an experience that’s incredibly fun and interactive.
His book is a mind puzzle like a Rubik’s Cube, except infinitely less frustrating and easier for friends to play with at the same time. Even if you’re well-versed in pop culture it’s still tough to guess every single silhouette right. When you find ones that you don’t know immediately, it’s actually more stimulating because it gets you to use your powers of your imagination in order to figure out who it is.
The only slightly annoying thing about Silhouettes from Popular Culture is that there’s no answer key. But understandably, Moss is hoping for re-read value. He knows you’ll keep coming back after you absorb new movies, television, and video games to try to fill in the blanks. He definitely has me hooked.
Silhouettes from Popular Culture is available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
Do you expect me to talk?
No Mr. Bond, I expect you to read!
I’m not a hardcore fan by any means, but I’m very familiar with British secret agent James Bond. I love movies and video games featuring the titular character for the same reasons most people do: they have exotic locations, expensive cars, cool gadgets, sexy women, maniacal villains, and plenty of action. Despite their formulaic nature, these tales still manage to please us because they unapologetically embrace these dependable staples. Fortunately Jim Lawrence and Yaroslav Horak’s Bond comics in The James Bond Omnibus 004 operate the exact same way. They work within the established formula to create entertaining Bond adventures that feel right at home in the hero’s mythology.
Somehow I had never heard of Lawrence and Horak’s Bond 1970s comic series until Titan Books recently sent me a copy of Omnibus 004. I wish I had discovered the comics sooner though, because Lawrence’s writing and Horak’s artwork work very effectively together to tell engrossing, Bond stories.
Similar to the Bond films, these missions have droll names such as “Trouble Spot,” “Die with My Boots On,” “The Girl Machine,” and “The Phoenix Project.” Bond travels to interesting places and gets himself into dangerous situations, but in classic fashion, he always beats the bad guy, usually right after the villain stupidly spills all of his plans for world domination. Then Bond gets the girl.
Lawrence writes Bond in the vein of Sean Connery’s version of the character. Bond is a misogynist who patronizingly refers to all women as “luv” and frequently asks them to stay out of the way. It’s a good thing they don’t listen, since they often end up saving him from danger. He might not acknowledge it, but the women in these operations are very much equal partners in trying to accomplish the endgame. Whether it’s intended or not there are definite feminist undertones in the series.
In addition to being a chick magnet Lawrence’s Bond also has the trademark Bond sense of humor. He makes puns after killing henchmen, like a moment after he forces some off a cliff, and has a comment about them “taking the plunge.” His female counterpart is exasperated by his morbid joke, though not for very long. Bond also uses an alias to be sneaky, something I don’t remember him doing before. In several of the comics he refers to himself as Mark Hazard, a phony name that the bad guys see through very quickly. Then it’s back to “Bond, James Bond.”
One of the most fascinating parts about these comics is Bond’s partnership with black allies. These characters may have silly stereotypical names like Crystal Kelly and Smoky Turpin, but don’t be fooled. These black characters, like the female ones, are equals with Bond in helping to take out the bad guys, something that would have been pretty progressive at the time these comics were being written.
Lawrence isn’t the only one worthy of praise, Horak deserves kudos too for his distinct artwork. Strangely Bond looks the most like George Lazenby, who only played the character once. Though Horak’s version an impressive medley of Connery and all the Bonds after aside from Daniel Craig. Horak’s black and white drawings prevent the violence in these Bond tales from becoming overwhelming and allow him to show more skin than the films do. His visual style bears a retro flair that looks dated but feels like classic Bond.
If you love all things James Bond, you should check out The James Bond Omnibus 004. Even if you’re not familiar with the character though, you can still have fun if you dig comics. Inside this volume you’ll find a collection of enjoyable, easy-to-read comics which fit appropriately into Bond canon.
The James Bond Omnibus 004 is available now in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
A small shelf or coffee table simply won’t do if you want to own Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard by Matt Taylor. Whatever you prefer, you’re gonna need a bigger one to hold this book. The behemoth behind the scenes volume is so meaty Jaws himself would have trouble sinking his teeth all the way into it.
The first reason he would struggle is the book’s size (11.9″ x 10.5″) and weight (4.67 lbs). At almost 5 pounds, it’s one heavy duty book! Secondly, there are over 300 sprawling pages with the most comprehensive making of account you’ll find available about Steven Spielberg’s famous film. Memories from Martha’s Vineyard delves deeper than any DVD commentary or behind the scenes documentary could possibly go, sharing hours of interviews and a wealth of amateur and professional photos depicting the people, places, and props that brought the movie to life.
Starting with the location scouting that led filmmakers to the New England island of Martha’s Vineyard, this book intricately documents the movie’s entire production process from start to finish. There’s an unexpected but brief foreword by Steven Spielberg as well as interviews with production designer Joe Alves, screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, and casting director Shari Rhodes. Although the real stars of Memories from Martha’s Vineyard are the island’s working-class natives who got acting roles in “Jaws,” helped construct the sets, and assisted the crew with day-to-day affairs.
Because he’s a resident of the area, Taylor is able to give you a true insider’s glimpse into the quirks of these unique New Englanders and the subtleties of their culture. His familiarity with the location is a big reason why he got such great candid remarks for this book. People there clearly trust him to do the subject justice.
Perhaps the most fascinating element that Taylor explores about his native island is the complexity of its politics. For instance, using several angles, he vividly recounts a frustrating tiff between local leaders and the film crew about a building being constructed as a set. Protective politicians almost caused production to grind to a complete halt because the temporary structure was not in keeping with rigorous zoning regulations. Thankfully due to finesse and assistance from the right stakeholders, everything was eventually resolved.
Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard is truly a fantastic read for anyone rabidly obsessed with Steven Spielberg’s epic movie, and for film buffs in general. This gorgeous book has enough cool photos and fascinating anecdotes to keep you occupied for hours.
Its only real detriment is its massive size and weight, which makes it incredibly difficult to read for more than a few minutes at a time. It’s too heavy to hold in your hands for long and it’s not something you can read laying down in bed. It’s a shame that it doesn’t lend itself to being explored cover to cover because the content absolutely makes you want to do that. So you’ll just have to ration your reading, taking just a few pages at a time, because there’s no way the publisher Titan Books could make it any smaller without sacrificing the quality of this volume.
Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard is available now in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.